The Blockley Almshouse Hospital of Philadelphia ("Old Blockey"), pictured in the background, 1892. (Wikimedia)

Pictures of an Institution: Birth Records at Old Blockley

On September 22, 1859, 30-year-old Margaret Merchant of Philadelphia was admitted to the obstetrical ward at the Blockley Almshouse. She was pregnant with her sixth child — a boy, though with the ultrasound almost exactly a century in the future, Mrs. Merchant could not have known that at the time. A mother of five, Mrs…. Read more →

Modess Sanitary Napkins, Good Housekeeping, 1950.

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news A brief history of chairs. Insomnia and birth control. Bad girls before the 1960s. The Gawker of Early America. Dog cakes and drug doctoring. What if women never won the vote? A farewell to abstinence and fidelity? The slave trade roots of private prisons…. Read more →


Playwright Alice Eve Cohen Asks Us to Reconsider What We Think We Know about Pregnancy and Motherhood

“What makes a mother real?” asks writer and performer Alice Eve Cohen in her newly-published play, What I Thought I Knew. In 1999, Cohen experienced the most improbably and bizarrely complicated pregnancy imaginable. Her play is a crystallization of her stranger-than-fiction pregnancy memoir that was acclaimed at its 2009 publication with book-of-the-year awards from Salon… Read more →

More Recent Articles

scottlum - Ferguson BLM protest in Seattle 2014 - Flickr - CC BY NC

Teaching in an Era of Black Lives Matter

One of the functions of social movements is to raise consciousness around a particular problem or issue. The Black Lives Matter movement is no different. Activists have successfully used disruptive protest, policymaking, and social media to influence public debates around structural racism, state violence, policing, and mass incarceration. The movement, as well as my experiences… Read more →

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. "The Cow Pock; or The Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!" New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news Romance and radium. The female libido pill is a bust. 16 bizzarre Victorian inventions. Istanbul, scandal, and smallpox. Mummies, cannibals, and vampires. White privilege in American Medicine. Who was the dancing man of Sydney? Teaching the history of drugs in America. The most famous restaurant… Read more →

Ad for "cocaine toothache drops," from around 1880-1899. (US National Library of Medicine | Public domain)

Disproving Self-Indulgence: Congenital Addiction in the Early Twentieth Century

On October 10, 1989, police arrived at the Medical University of South Carolina. They handcuffed Lori Griffin, a black girl not yet eighteen, and arrested her for distributing cocaine to a minor. That minor was her newborn child — distribution took place through the placenta. The police came because Lori’s urine had tested positive for… Read more →

An "Anatomical Venus" model from the La Specola workshop, ca. 1784-1788. (Joanna Ebenstein/Collections and History of Medicine, MedUni, Vienna)

Venus Revisited

“Creepy.” “Weird.” “Messed. Up.” Such are the visceral responses of my women’s history students to an admittedly bizarre and complex historical phenomenon: the Anatomical Venus. Designed to be realistic and anatomically correct wax models of the female body, Anatomical Venuses emerged in eighteenth-century Europe (primarily Spain, Italy, and Austria) to help train medical students who… Read more →

Close Up, Mar-Dec 1933, Film Theory, Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news The maladies of midwives. Historical advice on breastfeeding. A medical history of the Olympics. Women and the history of capitalism. Nabisco’s X-rated toy scandal of 1971. Is this the city where HIV first emerged? The 1880 police raid of a cross-dressing ball. The strange… Read more →